Sex Education is Everyone’s Right

Sex education is the teaching of knowledge and understanding of our bodies in their natural sexuality. It’s important for many reasons. Many privileged sectors of society have access to this knowledge and understanding, but in many parts of the world, it can’t be taken for granted.

There is a huge problem with sex education worldwide.

In the United States, a survey showed that of 1000 participants between 18 and 29 years, only 33% reported having had some sex education. In the United Kingdom, a similar poll proved that from the same number of participants, 16-17 years old, only 45% felt confident to define their sex education as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

Meanwhile, in South Africa, the adolescent pregnancy rate is 30%. Mexico has the highest rate of teen pregnancies among the 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Sex education simply means teaching young people to know how their bodies work and how to take care of them.

A sex education of quality provides us with the tools to respect our own bodies and the bodies of other people. It enables us to be conscious of the respect sexuality deserves, to prevent sickness, and to value the importance of open, shame-free dialogue.

Sex education should be part of every education. Sadly, many cultures still think that sex education is not a priority matter. Many people believe it shouldn’t be included in basic education because for them, talking about sex is a synonym for shame.

Consistent, high-quality sex education must not be only an option.

The importance of the subject goes beyond the individual. It matters deeply because a correct education can actually save lives. According to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), sex educations is:

“[…] teaching and learning aspects of sexuality. It aims to equip children and young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that will empower them to realize their health, well-being and dignity; develop respectful social and sexual relationships…”

Sex education can:

  • Prevent sexually transmitted diseases
  • Provide knowledge of how to use contraceptive methods
  • Prevent unwanted pregnancies
  • Create understanding of the menstrual cycle
  • Reduce stigma and shame

A thorough sex education also gives young people an understanding of the boundaries of their body’s intimate space. This helps them to identify sexual abuse.

With the correct information, people are more able to make responsible decisions.

Sex education must be a right. It is about more than just sexual life. Education helps young people to take decisions about their bodies, health and lives in their own hands. This can, in turn, create a better lifestyle for all.

It’s important to visualize the body as the natural thing that it is. If parents and textbooks would teach about the naturality of our bodies, it would be easier for people to demand respect over their own.

In the world I envisage for the future, everyone will receive high quality sex education. They’ll understand what sex is about, and there won’t be more fear or taboo. No child, woman or man will be limited in speaking about sexuality as a personal and social priority.

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Have we Forgotten what Feminism Really Means?

Feminism: a controversial word that still makes many people’s eyes roll.

There’s a misconception about feminism and so in my first blog post, I’d like to share my point of view. 

Feminism is NOT a movement aimed at destroying men, but at destroying the patriarchal ideas that are cemented in society. Feminism is NOT aimed at making men lesser than women, but at improving the status of being a woman so that it’s equal to that of being a man.

Feminism is NOT about treating men as trash, but rather pointing out the ‘trash’ things that some men do that increase the degradation of women. Feminism is NOT about reversing the status quo and oppressing men, but about challenging the status quo to stop oppressing women.

I’d like to talk about an important issue within feminism: gender-based violence. This is a sensitive topic all over the world, because the idea of rape, in particular, has been non-existent in the past. Rape was not rape. Rape was a woman who had ‘asked for it’. It was shameful and women were resented for being abused. Rape was not a topic up for discussion.

Recently, with movements like #MeToo, more and more people have been sharing their experiences of sexual abuse. It has become a more openly discussed topic now than ever before.

Many women have spoken up and made accusations, and in response (to no one’s surprise) came comments such as “she’s lying”, “why only come out now?”, “she’s trying to sabotage an innocent man”, “what was she wearing?”, “she was drunk yes, but she consented so it’s not rape”. The list goes on.

To anyone asking the question, if a woman was raped 30 years ago, why only come out now? I can give you an answer – rape was not up for discussion in the past. As soon as it became a topic that was no longer so much of a taboo, and as soon as more people were supporting women who sought justice for the offence committed against them, women decided it was time.

Time to stop holding back and to stop feeling guilty for someone else’s wrongs. Time to use their voices and turn the tables on the powerful men who thought they could get away with abuse because “she was asking for it” or “she consented” (even though she had been underaged or intoxicated), or “how could I have controlled myself with her looking like that?”.

Men who don’t rape, don’t abuse, don’t seek superiority, it’s also your job to stand up against those who do.

If you are a man who supports equality for all, doesn’t support patriarchal views on sexual abuse, doesn’t treat women as objects, doesn’t stereotype women as emotional and unfit to be in charge, then YOU ARE A FEMINIST.

Being a feminist is not just for women, but for all who support equality. 

If you are sexualizing a woman because of what she wears, and if you think that it gives you the right to sexually abuse her, the problem is with you, not with her.

If you see intoxicated consent as consent, you are mistaken.

If you think that an underage child’s consent gives you any rights over her, you are wrong.

And if you think that the patriarchal ideas of society will protect you from justice, then again, you are mistaken.

The movements will not stop, feminism will not stop and you will not beat them. So, educate yourself on equality for all, on the accurate statistics of rapes and sexual assaults, on the reality for women in the world. You might surprise yourself and find that feminism is not a tool to defeat the male species, but rather to empower all people in the world to enjoy equal rights and freedom of choice.

Who knows, whether male or female, you might just find that you are a feminist.

Happy World Contraception Day!

Do you know about World Contraception Day? It was launched in 2007 with the mission of improving contraception awareness and empowering youth with the ability to arrive at informed decisions about their reproductive and sexual health.

World Contraception Day (WCD) celebrates this concept every September 26th with the vision that no woman should have an unwanted pregnancy, making way for less risky abortions, fewer newborn and maternal deaths and greater prosperity and equality for all women everywhere. So, what are we celebrating exactly?

What Exactly Is World Contraception Day?

More than 70 countries typically participate in World Contraception Day. The World Health Organization describes the importance of WCD in a way that encompasses the promotion of family planning and female autonomy, supporting free choice of women worldwide, which in turn strengthens world health goals.

Ensuring that women can access their preferred contraceptive methods and make empowered decisions about their sexual health secures their autonomy and well-being. In turn, this movement strengthens the development and health of communities.

Women have used various contraceptive methods for centuries with varying to limited success, but modern medicine now allows women to choose if, when and how many kids they want to have — which can break the cycle of impoverishment and build a more sustainable path for the future of families and communities around the world.

The world population continues to grow, and limited access to contraception by law and other restrictions threaten women and the livelihood of and quality of life for families across the world.

Even in a wealthy country like the United States, women choose to have fewer kids for valid reasons: 64 percent cite rising childcare expenses, 54 percent want more time with their kids, 49 percent worry about the economy and 44 percent can’t afford kids. Other reasons include anxiety about domestic politics, work-life balance, career ambitions, rising population levels and parental aptitude.

Why I’m Celebrating World Contraception Day

Having access to a variety of family planning methods enables couples and families to do what’s best for themselves. As families plan if, when and how many children they will have, economic, social and health benefits increase for all.

I don’t personally want to have children, and while I don’t know if that will change, I certainly want to live in a world where I never have to face the scary possibility of giving birth to a human child who I am not prepared to take care of properly.

And in an American political climate where someone like Brett Kavanaugh is even being considered a viable candidate for judgeship, I believe that we need to be talking about contraceptives and safe, consensual sexual practices more than ever before.

It’s important for other countries as well. According to the USAID, more than 225 million women want to avoid or delay pregnancy in developing countries, but they don’t currently use family planning. WCD stresses the importance of increasing access to contraceptive services and information for everyone.

Every individual has a right to quality and affordable family planning information and contraceptives. Many organizations sponsor the delivery of condoms and contraceptives to developing countries. Knowledge about family planning gets shared not only at health clinics, but at salons, too! Wherever women go, we should be making sure that information is readily available to them.

Visit World Contraception Day online at your-life.com, which provides answers to common questions people have about contraceptives, reproduction and women’s health. Visitors can also research information about pregnancy and the “growing pains” of puberty.

You can celebrate World Contraception Day by sharing information on it, practicing safe and consensual sexual habits and honoring your sexual health by giving your body the TLC it deserves!

Improving Medical Response to Violence in Fragile Settings

His full name is Dr. Jean Jose Nzau Mvuezolo, but everyone calls him Jimmy.He is kind, friendly, and easygoing – the type of person you cannot help but like right away. Jimmy is from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but now he lives in the US, where he works as deputy director for CARE’s SAFPAC team (SAFPAC stands for ‘supporting access to family planning and post-abortion care’).

SAFPAC currently supports sexual and reproductive health projects in 13 countries, but most activities are focused in three fragile states: DRC, Chad, and Mali. Jimmy agreed to talk with me about the work CARE is doing to train health providers (doctors and community health workers) to respond to cases of sexual violence, which tend to increase in times of crisis, stretching already overburdened and under-resourced health and social service systems.

Sexual violence happens everywhere. But in places like these, where the government is weak and social structures are destroyed, it is easy to commit all sorts of human rights violations,” Jimmy explained.  

What kind of training do the providers need so they can help sexual violence survivors?” I asked, expecting him to list off a bunch of medical and data management procedures I would not fully understand.

Basically,” he responded, “they need to understand the concept and accept reality.

I asked what he meant…

It turns out, some doctors in DRC, Chad, and Mali aren’t much different from powerful men anywhere.

In countries and communities all around the world, women are considered less valuable than men, and men are able to use their higher status to take advantage of women and girls.

Many of the doctors Jimmy talked to were also professors at local medical schools, and saw no problem sleeping with their young students or nurses. The concept of gaining consent was foreign to them, and some thought it was okay to repeatedly approach a woman for sex even after she said no.

They did not see how it would be possible for a woman to be raped by her husband or a sex worker to be raped by anyone, because once one is married or has engaged in sex for pay, they can be assumed to be available for sex at all times. If a woman was assaulted, they immediately wanted to know what she might have done to put herself in that dangerous situation.

‘Sexual harassment’ was believed, by some of the men Jimmy spoke to, to be a Western idea and something that did not exist in Africa.

Now imagine coming to one of these health providers as a rape victim – distressed, hurting, and in need of care. I shudder to think about how such a visit could make an already bad situation so much worse.

So Jimmy and the other CARE facilitators start every training they do with a discussion of power dynamics, and what true consent looks like. Participants are asked to critically reflect on their own attitudes and behaviors toward women in their lives, and how they would feel if someone else treated their mothers, wives, or daughters the same way.

Jimmy described the process as “helping them to understand themselves.” They also talk about the laws in their own countries that prohibit violence and harassment of women, to demonstrate that gender-based violence is not actually a western idea.

Only after several days of reflection and value clarification exercises do the trainings move on to the clinical skills needed for treatment of sexual violence, which are, Jimmy says, “the easy part.

These doctors already know how to provide family planning and post-abortion care [from SAFPAC], so it’s not hard to teach them the rest. They should also know where to refer patients for psychosocial support and how to collect evidence for prosecution so the perpetrator can be held accountable.

So far, Jimmy and his team have offered these trainings to doctors in 152 health facilities and to more than 1000 community health workers. In the future, he hopes to strengthen the referral links between clinical services and law enforcement, and between clinical services and local organizations providing support to victims of gender-based violence.

Jimmy is resolute in his commitment. “We will keep fighting. We have no choice.

For more on CARE’s SAFPAC project, visit our project page. For more on how you can support CARE’s efforts to fight gender-based violence, visit careaction.org.